Using Simple Language

Psychology is an elaboration of the obvious”    ~William James

I first heard this quote in a psychology class during college and immediately fell in love with it.  Not only did I find it accurate with regard to my psychology courses, I have also found it to be an excellent reminder about effective communication.

When we’re communicating with a wide range of people, or with people who are unfamiliar with a concept we are attempting to teach, we should strive to use language that most simply conveys our message.  I’m not talking about “dumbing down” our content, but rather choosing to avoid unnecessary complexities when clear simple language will suffice.

There are times when both the topic and the audience warrant complexity, like at a conference for rocket scientists or brain surgeons, for example.  But many of the concepts and ideas we want to share with other people can easily and effectively be delivered with clear and simple language.

The next time you have a presentation or a speech to give where you’ll be explaining a concept to wide ranging group, consider using clear simple language that is free of jargon and industry buzz words.  At the very least, you’ll be putting your audience in a better position to understand what you’re attempting to communication.  And at best, you may even be able to influence their thinking.

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The Voice

There’s a group of people where I work that get together every other Friday to practice public speaking.  The group leader emails out a couple of topics at the beginning of the week, and each person who would like to speak has 5 minutes to present their topic.  It’s a great opportunity to regularly practice speaking in front of a group.

Although I love the creative process of getting a topic, thinking about what I want to communicate, and crafting my presentation, at some point during the process I briefly think, “I don’t have to talk this week.  I could just pass this time, then I wouldn’t have to do all this work to prepare.”  That’s the voice of fear that thinks it’s easier not to put yourself out there, to play it safe, and not to take chances.

I don’t listen to that voice.  Instead, I double-down on my preparation efforts.

Every time I finish a presentation, there’s a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment at having prepared and delivered a good speech.  If I’d have listened to that voice, I would have missed that feeling, as well as the experience that came with it.

We all have that voice, the one that urges us to hold back and play it safe.  And we all have the same freedom: to succumb to that voice’s false warning or to ignore it and press on.

I wonder how much joy, satisfaction, accomplishment, encouragement, innovation, experiences, personal growth, and love in the world is lost every day, because people listen to this voice.

The next time you hear this voice calling you to hold back and play it safe, tune it out, and instead press on and do great things.